Even the biggest tree has its origin in a tiny seed. A vision, however simple or grand it may seem at the beginning, takes a firm believer with an aspiration to take that first step and sow the seed. Then, it needs further nurturing for an idea to reach its complete realisation, which can only be done by those who can understand the vision by the predecessor to take it to the next level. Well, the one scheme that truly reflects this sentiment seems to be Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY).
PMGSY was launched in December 2000 when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was leading the nation as the Prime Minister. It was aimed to provide all-weather road connectivity to eligible unconnected rural habitations. Under the Modi government, the road building under PMGSY has not only picked up a great pace but also brought in new aspects to the betterment of the scheme which this article going to explore. The PMGSY is in its third phase now and the recent budget has earmarked Rs 80,250 crore more for upgradation of roads under this scheme.
PMGSY- Road Travelled So Far and the Path Ahead
As this Lok Sabha reply details:
- Out of 1,78,184 habitations as per Census, 2001 identified for coverage under PMGSY, 1,71,655 habitations have been found feasible.
- Of this, 1,66,209 habitations have been connected through all-weather roads as on June 30, 2019.
- Since the inception of the scheme, a total of 6,01,779 kms roads have been completed under the various interventions/verticals of the scheme.
So, what is the budget allocation this year for rural roads and what exactly does PMGSY-3 mean? Since 97% of the rural habitations are already connected, now the government has aimed for consolidation under the scheme. Rs 80,250 crores will be used to consolidate major rural links connecting habitations, to rural agricultural markets, higher secondary schools and hospitals among others.
How PMGSY was Strengthened
It is not that the governments between Atal-led NDA and Modi-led NDA have not made any progress in PMGSY. However, the credit of conception of the idea belongs to the former while scaling it up with newer perspective and zeal goes to the latter as the figures suggest.
When the Modi government came in, rural road connectivity stood at 55%, as of March 2014. In its five years, Modi 1.0 made this number surge up to 97%.
The year before the Modi government came to power, 25,316 kms of PMGSY roads were constructed in 2013-14. In the very next year in 2014-15, 38,043 kms roads were built.
In 2016-17, when PMGSY built more than 46,000 kms road, it was claimed that it was a record: the highest construction of PMGSY roads in a single year, in the last 7 years. But guess what! The subsequent years went on to perform even better. In 2017-18, a total of 48,714 kms roads was built and in 2018-19 it stood at 49,037 kms.
As one of our earlier articles explored, this has been the rate of construction under PMGSY over the years.
It is not just about the increasing pace of rural road building, but the interventions that were added during the Modi era that make a lot of difference to the scope and quality of the effort. In 2016, the government launched Road Connectivity Project for Left Wing Extremism affected Areas as a separate vertical under PMGSY covering 44 districts. 5,066 kms road length has been sanctioned under this scheme so far.
This government is also encouraging locally available materials and use of green technologies for the construction of road. State Governments are required to propose minimum 15% of total length of annual proposals under new technologies such as cement stabilization, lime stabilization, cold mix, waste plastics, cell filled concrete, panelled cement concrete pavement, fly ash etc. A total of 35,922 Kms length of roads using new technologies are sanctioned so far. This essentially means that the environmental concerns and utilisation of local resources thereby creating local employment opportunities are taken care of.
As discussed earlier, the 3rd phase of PMGSY would facilitate easy and faster movement to and from rural agricultural markets, higher secondary schools, and hospitals.
Roads are not mere a means to connect two places but it opens up a whole range of opportunities to the villagers and brings prosperity to the region. NDA governments both under Vajpayee and Modi appear to have understood the fact better and acted upon. The Modi government even used the connectivity to contain the Naxal violence.
Rahul Gandhi of the Congress once said “The poor can’t eat roads”. In stark contrast, the BJP governments saw the rural roads as an instrument to ease the life of the poor and built roads to connect markets, hospitals and schools.